Leon Dodge to be Grand Marshall in Labor Day parade
Retired Paducah Fire Chief Leon Dodge, 91, doesn't think he ever rode in a fire truck in the city's Labor Day parade.
He won't this year either. His mount will be a convertible out front.
Dodge, who spent almost 38 years in the fire department - his last 17 as chief - is grand marshal for the 39th annual end-of-summer holiday procession. "It's quite an honor," he said.
Dodge, a Calvert City native and World War II veteran, was the unanimous choice of the Western Kentucky Labor Day Committee, the non-profit, all-volunteer group that sponsors the city's Labor Day parades.
"Leon Dodge still cares about people, as evidenced by him recently going before the city commission to help get pensions raised for retired firefighters," said Larry Sanderson, Labor Day Committee president. "At age 91, he is still going strong and still helping people."
Dodge joined the fire department in 1951, six years after the end of World War II. He fought in Europe as a machine gunner in the Army's 29th Infantry Division.
"I came ashore on Omaha Beach on June 13, 1944, seven day after D-Day," he remembered. "It was my 21st birthday."
Dodge is also proud that he was in on the liberation of Paris, France's capital, in August, 1944. "What impressed me the most about Paris?" he asked with a chuckle. "The women - I was single back then." He said he pulled especially good duty after the war was over. "I spent a week on the French Riviera as an MP," Dodge said.
At the fire department, Dodge made lieutenant in 1954 and captain nine years later. He was named chief in 1971 and retired in 1988.
Dodge said he belonged to International Association of Firefighters Local 168 and was president for a year.
He said his greatest accomplishment as chief was getting Paducah a third class insurance classification. "That saved the taxpayers money. We had the lowest insurance rates for homeowners and next to the lowest rates for businesses."
Also under his tenure, Paducah built three fire stations and a training facility.
The Labor Day parade starts at 9:30 a.m. on Labor Day and heads down Broadway toward the riverfront from Seventeenth Street. The procession, which will feature floats, marching bands, vehicles and other mobile attractions, will be followed by the customary picnic and political speaking next to the floodwall.